Whether it’s a product launch, media briefing or industry-wide festival, devising and executing a memorable event is often a key element of an effective communications campaign.
But events can be fraught occasions, with unforeseen circumstances around every corner. Comms professionals need to be able to think on their feet and adapt quickly to a changing environment. When Covid-19 hit, with its successive lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings, event organisers faced a new test altogether.
This was certainly the case for Lloyd’s of London’s flagship insurance diversity and inclusion festival, Dive In. A Gong client since its inception in 2015, the event has grown from being hosted in just one country with 1,762 attendees to 32 countries and 10,296 participants in 2019.
Having gone from strength to strength, Dive In organisers were determined that Covid-19 would not spell the end of the festival’s success. The event was moved over to a virtual platform in 2020, resulting in its greatest success to date – running across six continents with over 140 events in 35 countries, hosting 30,153 participants. It taught us a few things about delivering virtual events. Here are some answers to the most common four challenges.
Challenge 1: How do I engage my audience at a virtual event or on a virtual platform?
Speakers or moderators are accustomed to the immediate feedback provided by the audience – notably from body language. Without that luxury on a virtual platform, here are some ways to trigger engagement:
- Use virtual tools, such as asking for questions, comments, and polls that are linked to a graphic that displays on the screen
- Engage audiences and promote active discussions by using digital whiteboards
- Supercharge events with rivalry by carefully curating your speakers – for example, if an event is focused on a specific topic, invite those from competing industries to provide a more charged debate.
Challenge 2: How do I make sure people will attend my virtual event or meeting?
This is the fear of every event organiser – after all the hard work setting up the logistics, and inviting attendees, will the registrants actually turn up? Our top tips:
- Make sure that once they have signed up to your virtual event, attendees are invited to instantly place it in their diary by clicking through a calendar link.
- Send a reminder email before the event and as it begins – and a link to watch it after the event, to ensure maximum views.
- Link your event to topical days or weeks of the year to keep them at the front of registrants’ minds. If you are running an international event, think about local awareness days that might be applicable too. Use social media assets to boost visibility of the link between the awareness day and your event.
Challenge 3: What is the best format for a virtual event?
There is always a place for a panel discussion with a well-curated set of guests and a good moderator (like a top journalist). However, if any format is overdone, attendees can be easily disengaged, especially if the panel format does not attract high-profile speakers. Consider the following:
- A short video with a knowledgeable speaker talking over and/or after the images are shown.
- A TED-style speech, filmed with distance between the speaker and the virtual audience.
- Take to social media and consider an Instagram Live event to keep things more personal and intimate.
Challenge 4: How do I make my virtual event memorable?
Making a virtual event memorable is the holy grail for all event organisers. Here are our top tips:
- Embrace Fun
- Even if you are running a B2B event, it is still important to create a sense of fun to boost attendance and visibility. Can you create a visually engaging video? Take time to consider your opening speaker or moderator – are they suitably interesting?
- Harness Cultural Assets
- Broaden the scope of your event by taking it into the real world too. Adding in cultural assets can open up an event to audiences outside of your initial key target area and attract a broader visibility. For example, consider a cultural interlude during virtual events by hiring notable or local artists to perform spoken word, or commission a topical poem around your event core themes.
- Offer pre-event giveaways with a reminder of the timings of your event to keep it front of mind.
Remember – you need to monitor and report on attendee numbers and engagement at all of your events to understand the impact they have had.